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Shokunin: Hirotsugu Ogawa, Pottery

Photo by Yuya Hoshino

In celebration of our current Art in the Garden exhibition, Shokunin: Five Kyoto Artisans Look to the Future, each week we’ll feature one of the five artists whose work is showcased in the exhibition. Previously, we featured Hosai MatsubayashiShuji Nakagawa, Chiemi Ogura, and Keikou Nishimura. This week, we’re sharing the work of Hirotsugu Ogawa, a fourth generation successor to the Choraku kiln established by his great grandfather in 1903 who carries on the making of tea bowls in the classic Raku style.

Photo by Yuya Hoshino

Dating back over 400 years, Raku style bowls are hand-formed without the use of a pottery wheel and then low-fired in small kilns. While following the tea precept of ichigo-ichie, (one time, one meeting), the notion that each encounter should be treasured as a once in a lifetime experience, he re-interprets the tradition of tea ceremony in modern times to capture the avant-garde spirit that Sen no Rikyu, founder of tea ceremony, and Chōjiro, the original Raku potter, were after.

“Hand-formed tea bowls take the form of two hands scooping up water. It is the form of humans in harmony with their environment. But then we carve into the chunk of clay after hand-forming to shape it to its ideal form. These appear to be two contradictory attitudes: one going along with nature and the other one controlling nature. I think it is only human to have such a drive to control that which is seemingly uncontrollable. Then again, during the firing process, we realize that we will never really succeed in controlling nature.” – Hirotsugu Ogawa